The Path Forward: A Recap of the Theology & Peace Gathering

The Theology and Peace Gathering was held at the Scarritt Bennet Center in Nashville, Tennessee from November 14th through 17th, 2022. Participants attended in-person and via Zoom. The Conference provided an opportunity for renewal and restoration among the participants, anchored in the history of the Conference while looking towards the future of Theology and Peace.

We continued to engage ideas about mimetic theory and non-violence. Anthony Bartlett led a discussion of his new book Anthony Bartlett “Signs of Change: The Bible’s Evolution of Divine Nonviolence” (2022) in which he reconciles biblical stories of a violent humanity with the narrative seam that reveals a nonviolent God. Rebecca Adams and Paul Nuechterlein discussed the impact of Raymund Schwager’s idea on Girardian theory that human beings have a glimpse of God’s love before the fall of humanity. Julia Robinson Moore’s article, “The Frontier of Race in Mimetic Theory, American Lynchings and Racial Violence” noted the scarce attention Girardians’ have given to the intersection of race and violence, and explored mimetic theory within the context of the African American experience of lynching.

The Gathering engaged new perspectives on mimetic theory that offered hope the mimetic construct can forge a path towards healing and reconciliation. Maura Junius described the mission of the newly established non-profit unRival Network whose mission is to provide “Hope in the Heart of Conflict.” The unRival Network will accompany peacebuilders to “inspire collaboration and overcome destructive rivalries.

Andrew McRae offered a fascinating reimagining of the mimetic triangle in his presentation “Loving from Love for Another: When Lynne Cox met Something Large and Wild” that may be accessed HERE.

Karen Kepner brought insights from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions, 2013) that encouraged us to embrace creation as a source of learning to nurture, cooperate and flourish.

Ellen Corcella, adopting a trauma-informed care approach to her work as a chaplain in a critical care urban hospital, illustrated ways we can model and mediate empathy, compassion and love in the midst of tragic human circumstances. Her website provides resources for pastors, chaplains, counselors, theologians and others about building resilience, adopting a trauma-informed lens and coping with grief, PTSD, suicide and loss.

Pastors shared their stories of putting “Boots on the Ground” to build communities grounded in a loving mimesis. Tim Seitz-Brown and Wesley Dunbar work with the Poor People Campaigns in their states. Rick Waldrop and Ken Archer shared their work for peace and non-violence within the Pentecostal community.

Our visioning session confirmed reports of the death of the Theology and Peace Conference are highly exaggerated. We are deeply grateful for the Conference founders, to Susan Wright for herculean efforts that kept us connected during COVID and got us to Nashville and to our sponsor The Raven Foundation for its generous encouragement and support.

Our next visioning meeting is December 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm EST. Ideas offered to re-invigorate the ongoing work and mission of Theology and Peace included:

Reframe the Annual Meeting as the Pinnacle of our work, but continue to meet in various ways throughout the year –
o Mimesis at the Movies
o Quarterly Engagements
o Active Social Media Presence

Holding the Conference in late September-Early October and returning to Chicago as the site of the conference.

Working to provide CEU’s for attendees.

Recognizing the Assets within the Conference
o Encouraging participants to share their work;
o Encouraging and supporting each other as we face difficult challenges in a divisive world;
o Continue Community Building with enhanced use of social media.

Volunteer Staffing – the need for active administration of the Conference in terms of communication, fund raising, event planning and advertising.
o Karen Kepner and Ellen Corcella have agreed to help with event planning and communications within the Conference;
o Maura Junius will help with developing a social media strategy.

About Sue Wright

I use Rene Girard's mimetic theory to read comics. It's amazing what comes to light. Comics are far richer than I ever realized.
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